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Gear talk: the Montbell crushable lantern shade

If a little lantern is wanted for night-time use in the tent on lightweight backpacking excursions, there isn’t much smaller or lighter than this minimal offering from Montbell. It provides the means to convert the beam from a headlamp, into a gentle 360° spread of light

Mont Bell crushable lantern shade with Nitecore NU25 fitted with replacement shockcord headstrap, a total of 38g
Montbell crushable lantern shade with Nitecore NU25 fitted with replacement shock cord headstrap, a total of 38g

Montbell Co., Ltd. was established in Osaka, Japan, in 1975 with the aim of producing quality outdoor equipment. They established Montbell Europe in Brussels, Belgium in 1990 and opened a design office in California, USA, the same year. They established Montbell America, Inc., as an overseas (American) company of the Montbell group in 2002 and Montbell Suisse SA as an overseas (Suisse) company of the Montbell group in 2005.

The little Montbell collapsible lantern provides an effective cross over from simple headlamp to full blown lantern. It weighs just a few grams and will illuminate the confines of a small shelter. There isn’t a great deal to this little shade. It is a cylinder of translucent material stitched to an internal reflective cone at the closed end, and thin shock cord drawcord with toggle at the open end. It works best when properly expanded. The easiest way to do this is to tighten and close the open end slightly and blow into it, as though it were a paper bag. A headtorch is turned on and placed in the end, shining down onto the reflective cone. The drawcord is then cinched tight enough to hold the two together, The headband of the headtorch can then be hung from a tent roof or branch. So innovative was the little crushable lantern from Montbell that in 2013 it won an OutDoor Industry Award at the OutDoor Show, one of the world’s largest international outdoor and sporting goods trade shows, that takes place in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Mont Bell crushable lantern
The Mont Bell crushable lantern has an internal cone of reflective material at the closed end
The Montbell crushable lantern has an internal cone of reflective material at the closed end
Mont Bell crushable lantern

The 30 denier rip-stop polyester lantern diffuses the reflected beam in a pleasant 360° spread of light though directly beneath the light is a shaded by the internal cone in the base of the crushable shade. It is a pretty effective piece of kit but very much a luxury. There is enough ambient light to read by, study a map, write in a journal, cook, and see into the furthest corners of a shelter. It spreads a less harsh light than from a headlamp beam, but if it started off as a cold light, then it remains a cold light.

Nitecore NU25- low
Nitecore NU25- low
Nitecore NU25- medium
Nitecore NU25- medium
Nitecore NU25- high
Nitecore NU25- high

Mine is the earlier model 1124462 crushable lantern from Montbell. It measures 120mm x 60mm diameter and weighs 4.7g (advertised as 5g). This is no longer available from them. Typically, in common with so many other decent pieces of lightweight gear, it has since been ‘developed’. This change took place for the 2017 season and Montbell were kind enough to send me scans of the 2016 and 2017 catalogues showing the crushable lanterns on sale at the time, shown below.

Product descriptions from Montbell 2016 and 2017 catalogues show the change in models. Image courtesy Montbell
Product descriptions from Montbell 2016 and 2017 catalogues show the change in models. Image courtesy Montbell

I don’t have the modern replacement for mine but the 2017 replacement small size model 1124658 had the internal reflective cone removed and it is now simply an all-round cocoon of polyester. This now permits the area below the shade to also be lit. The advertised weight has now increased to 7g but this is due to the inclusion of a clip from which a headlamp strap can be hung. A larger size of crushable lantern is also available from Montbell. This retains an internal reflective cone. Advertised as weighing 8g weight, model 1124622 measures 165mm x 100mm diameter and is capable of accommodating larger headlamps.

Mont Bell crushable lantern, new small size
Montbell crushable lantern, small size, model 1124658
Mont Bell crushable lantern, large size
Montbell crushable lantern, large size, model 1124622

Some people will shine the light of a headlamp through a Nalgene, or use some other sort of bag in an attempt to spread light in the same manner. However this purpose built crushable shade from Montbell does it all, for modest weight. At the very least, it can act as a little baggie in which to keep a headlamp when not being used.

This has been part of a series of blogs looking at small lanterns suited to lightweight backpacking, that can also be used in the home and elsewhere:

Montbell crushable lantern shade with Nitecore NU25

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